14 Nov What are the benefits of fasting for the society?
a. Fasting ensures the unity and harmony of society
Fasting (especially when observed in Ramadan) leads to a positive change in the attitudes of the believers towards each other.
The sense of empathy it invokes helps the faster understand other people better and makes it easier for them to make friends and socialize. The usual activities of Ramadan that are common to all believers, such as fasting during the same month, waiting for the time to break the fast in the evening, congregational Tarawih Prayers observed in the mosque after breaking the fast, and getting up at night to have the pre-dawn meal (sahur) before beginning the fast all foster the brotherhood and affection among the believers. In particular, the Night of Power (Laylat al-Qadr) and the Eid celebration (Eid al-Fitr) at the end of Ramadan strengthen the social ties among believers.
Allah’s Messenger says:
“The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, and fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb aches, the whole body aches because of sleeplessness and fever.”
Therefore, believers feel themselves to be the limbs of one body and this feeling strengthens the solidarity and friendship in the community.
Actually, during Ramadan all members of a family sit at the table and wait together for the time to break the fast; in Islam it is recommended that all family members sit at the dining table together. Inviting relatives, friends, neighbors and even strangers to iftar (the meal that one eats to break the fast) is highly recommended as well. Friends converse and wait together for the same event, and experience the same feelings. They feel tenderhearted toward each other, and in fact toward all living beings, because of the hunger they feel. They have neither time nor energy for enmity or grudges. These affectionate feelings continue after Ramadan, for fasting is a period of training.
b. Fasting raises awareness of the situation of the poor
Fasting teaches the rich, who eat good, nutritious food and never suffer from hunger, what hunger is.
When they stay hungry and thirsty for a period they begin to think about the poor and feel empathy for them. The rich then desire to help the poor and needy, as fasting makes it possible for them to empathize with the poor and to see the hard and challenging conditions they live in. On the other hand, because of the kindness and compassion of the rich, the poor are less likely to feel envy and hatred toward those who are better off. Thus, a change of attitude on both sides can occur. The enmity between both social strata can be brought to an end in this way with peace and security prevailing in society.
The idea of restoring social justice, security, and peace so easily is quite exciting as well as being difficult to believe. However, this is a fact based on experience and on the teachings of Islam.
The Messenger of Allah says:
“Those who are full while their neighbors are hungry are not of us.”
It is clear that there is deep wisdom in obeying the rules prescribed by Allah and carrying out such acts of worship that have many personal and social benefits, even if only some of these benefits have been made known to us. Abstaining from food not only makes us healthy, but also makes us a perfect member of the community.
c. Fasting develops dignity
People who have persevered against hardships, such as hunger and thirst, and have thus trained their body and soul, can challenge and overcome every difficulty they may encounter in life.
Hunger and thirst cease to be great threats for such people. Hunger pains are no longer a chain that holds them back. Such people can protect their self-respect and dignity at any cost. They will not beg for money or food, even when they are hungry.
Yogis can go on living without food or drink for six months, even though they are not seeking the pleasure of Allah, therefore it is not hard to understand how believers feel secure that with the help and consent of their Lord they can easily endure more physical suffering without degrading themselves before other people if they fall on hard times. But those who have never fasted and thus immunized their body against hunger will most probably abase themselves and begin to beg for food in order to satisfy their hunger when they find themselves having to do without.